I can say with all certainty that some of the best times I’ve had was when the Philadelphia Film Festival was at it’s peak in the early-aughts. A week of trying to see as many films as humanly possible along with a handful of friends doing the same was a blast. 2002 through 2005 were the most memorable, for a variety of reasons.
It was like working another job; you get up in the morning, pack the essentials for the day and head to see the first film, usually around 11am. Three of the theaters are within a four block radius of one another in the Society Hill section of the city. A lucky day would be when that’s where all your films for the day were set. The challenge is when something is in West Philly or Center City and you’ve got to make like a bandit to get across town.
I’d usually do the subway, which was completely unreliable and endlessly frustrating. My main festival comrade, Stacey, would illegally park his truck as close to the theater as possible. He’d rack up hundreds of dollars in tickets and towing fees, but hey, he made it to the movie. Stacey and I were the two main fest-goers. We met one year during a fest when we kept seeing each other at screening after screening. He came up to me at one point and introduced himself, saying we might as well hang out since we were seeing all of the same films.
Needless to say, we became fast friends.
Each festival would be about two weeks long. In that time, the goal was to hit 35 films. That’s a LOT of popcorn. But it was the whole process that was so enjoyable. Soon as the program for that year would come out, Stacey and I would meet at a local coffeehouse and pore over it for hours, coming up with our must-sees which would often overlap.
The rest of our crew would be told where we’d be heading what we’d be seeing and were more than welcome to come along – or try to keep up. The night would end at a 24 hour diner where we’d go over the best and worst of what we saw. Mix that in with the endless after-parties and it was a glorious grind that I miss greatly but reminisce over fondly.